Monday, 28 January 2008

Review: Simachev Bar (Симачёв)

Opening Hours: 7 Days 11am till last customer
Category: Bar, Pre-Party
Feis Kontrol Rating: Moderate - 3/5 (when present)
Address: Stoleshnikov per., 12., Bldg 2,
M: Pushkinskaya/Tverskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 629-8085

Opened in early 2007, Denis Simachev Shop and Bar is definitely not the first Moscow venue to combine retail and nightlife (even the photos on the wall of Galereya are for sale, and don't get me started on how many of the girls in Moscow nightclubs are for sale one way or another), but it's the first by a local star designer.

Denis Simachev, whose $400+ t-shirts and other haute-nouveau-Russian fashion items are for sale upstairs, has created his vision of the perfect bar downstairs. It has great food, ranges from a rocking club to a quiet place to enjoy with friends, and reflects the quirky designs of its namesake. Whether you're interested in the fashion or not, it's definitely worth a visit!

Simachev is easy to find, as you wander down the fashionable pedestrian walk Stoleshnikov per., it's the large red and yellow building wrapped to look like a giant gift. On party nights (Thu/Fri/Sat generally), Feis Kontrol will have set up a compound outside, and in Summer there's a gorgeous patio, but otherwise you can let yourself in through the narrow antique-looking doors, and find yourself at the base of an ornate staircase, leading up to the store. To your left lies a service bar, and on the right a tabled seating area that converts to a secondary dance floor on busy nights. Feis Kontrol tends to be moderately strict but consistent.

As you venture further into the bar, the thought that comes to mind when describing the decor is "eclectic". A tiled floor and an imitation row of washbasins down the centre of the room give a French Brasserie air, while the catholic confession-like alcoves for inconspicuous dining bring to mind another age. The shiny bar with its hysterical montage of world leaders is bright and playful, while the pornographic Anime mosaic on the wall of the dancefloor is cute (in a kind of sexy "Hello Kitty" way). Add a leopard skin, an ejector seat from a MiG fighter, a working fireplace, and this bar has something for everyone!

Simachev hosts a slightly edgier crowd than bars like GQ, Soho, or other high-end spots. The bar prides itself on it's fashion pedigree, while not welcoming the young and clueless set that haunts Solyanka and Justo. As a result, the crowd is a little older (there are always older (25+) single women there on the prowl), fairly interesting, and looking for a slightly different offering than the standard Moscow mix.

The music at Simachev depends on the night and who's on the turntables (Denis himself regularly does a few sets), but tends to thoughtfully remixed older tunes (lots of 80's), with creative non-electronica modern mixes featuring frequently. To my dismay, when trying to urge the crowd onto the dancefloor on party nights, the DJ is far too quick to put on what I consider 2nd-class American wedding music ("Come On Eileen" being the tune that's guaranteed to make me instantaneously leave any establishment), but the bar generally offers good music you can groove to.

The bar's truly hidden gem is its fabulous kitchen. For someone with a passion for good bar food (a la New York), Simachev is a gift from above. A simple but well-put-together menu of quality sandwiches, pizzas, soups, and other basic foods, (as well as an all-day breakfast and a kicking dessert menu) at a reasonable (although recently increased) price makes this a great place for dinner with friends or even a date, any time of the day or night (although I'd recommend it more on a quiet night).

Altogether, Simachev is a location that has grown on me over time. It's a great place to come on a quiet night for it's own sake, and a good pre-party to get you in the mood when heading out, as long as you don't let the too-cool attitude of the crowd get to you, or find Good Ol' Eileen chasing you out the door.

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